The kids are all right in Peter Nicks’ ‘Homeroom’ | #television | #elderly | #movies
After what can only be described as one miserable year, Oakland filmmaker Peter Nicks uncovers some hard-earned hope with “Homeroom,” his new documentary following Oakland High School seniors as they confront an unprecedented year and a confusing time in their young lives.
The film received its world premiere today at the Sundance Film Festival.
“Homeroom” concludes Nicks’ trio of Oakland-focused documentaries that launched in 2012 with “The Waiting Room,” which took viewers inside Highland Hospital’s Emergency Room, and followed up in 2017 with “The Force,” a ride-along with Oakland Police Department during another unstable period.
“Homeroom” is Nicks’ best and surprisingly his most upbeat documentary yet — a kinetic time capsule that captures the volatility of the pandemic era yet shows why it failed to douse the dreams and passions of the 2020 Oakland High School graduating class.
“Homeroom” is equally at home showcasing the tenacity of these young adults and depicting the vulnerability and resilience of the city of Oakland itself. The city’s feisty and fearless spirit — seen in street protests and a communal shoot-out at President Donald Trump in block letters atop the Grand Lake Theater marquee — demands its own presence here, and the result is a portrait of the city that is as persuasive and distinctive as another previous Sundance feature, 2018’s “Blindspotting” with Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal.
To coin a term born in Oakland, it’s been one “hella” year for the students. “Homeroom” depicts all of that: the tireless student-led movement to convince the Oakland Unified School District to boot the police out of their corridors, a Zoom graduation ceremony, rallying calls against police brutality that lead to the doorsteps of Mayor Libby Schaaf’s home. Nicks and crew find telling moments most of us haven’t seen, including students’ exhausted reactions at seeing yet another video of a police shooting. It’s profound and emotional to behold.
The scenes are reflected through the eyes of some particularly memorable students: Oakland school board student representatives Denilson Garibo and Mica Smith-Dahl, who are frustrated that they are raising their voices yet not being heard; the talented spoken-word poet Edgar Galvez and his neon-yellow cowboy boots; and Dwyane Davis, a much-needed optimist who helps others continue on.
Nicks doesn’t idolize the teens, but respects them. He shows them being drowsy on the first day of school, partying in a backyard and essentially just being teens. He has said he wanted to create a real-life “Breakfast Club” for students of color, and he succeeded beautifully, depicting with grace and honest why we should be hopeful this generation will make tomorrow a better place.
You won’t be able to forget this Class of 2020, and we have Nicks to thank for that.